Blackpool 3-1 Maidstone United: Nathan Delfouneso at the double as Seasiders avoid FA Cup upset
Three goals in the space of four minutes at the start of the second half helped Blackpool avoid an embarrassing FA Cup upset at the hands of non-league minnows Maidstone United.
The Seasiders had been trailing at the break against their National League South opponents after being shocked by Saidou Khan’s superb volley.
But after being booed off the pitch at the interval, Blackpool responded in the best way possible with a trio of goals in fewer than 240 seconds.
Nathan Delfouneso got two of them to take his goals tally to the season to five, while their leveller came via a fortunate George Elokobi own goal.
The win, which saw the Seasiders avoid two cup exits in a week, sees Simon Grayson’s men enter the draw for the third round which takes place on Monday night.
After Wednesday night’s disappointment in the EFL Trophy, Simon Grayson opted to revert to the same team that drew 2-2 at Ipswich Town last weekend.
Joe Nuttall, fresh from scoring twice in his last two games, led the line once again in Armand Gnanduillet’s absence.
The Frenchman, who continues his recovery from a thigh injury, took part in a lone warm-up before the game and is expected to come back into contention for the home clash against Fleetwood Town next week.
Ryan Hardie, who disappointed in the midweek defeat to Scunthorpe United, was left out of the squad entirely in favour of 16-year-old Tony Weston.
Maidstone, who sit 73 places below the Seasiders in the football pyramid, threatened in the opening 60 seconds as former Arsenal defender Gavin Hoyte whipped a dangerous ball into the Blackpool box that Ben Heneghan just managed to deal with.
The Seasiders took a while to settle and get into their stride, although they did almost break Maidstone’s defences when Sullay Kaikai looked to latch onto James Husband’s long ball, only for his touch to let him down.
Pool continue to look lethargic, with their non-league opponents more than holding their own.
The closest either side came to breaking the deadlock came on 21 minutes, when Matty Virtue forced an impressive save out of Maidstone keeper Jake Cole.
The midfielder struck a first-time low shot which looked as though it might trickle into the bottom corner, only for Cole - at full stretch - to tip the effort around the post for a corner.
Pool took charge of proceedings from this point, Husband almost wrongfooting the goalkeeper with a hopeful volley that took a wicked deflection, only for Cole to get across his goal to make the save.
But the Seasiders were left shell-shocked just before the half-hour mark when Maidstone took an unexpected lead in stunning fashion.
Saidou Khan, who had been identified as their dangerman prior to kick-off, struck a bouncing ball on the turn from 20 yards which caught Jak Alnwick by surprise, the ball looping over the keeper and into the roof of the Blackpool net.
Any desires for a quick response were halted when play was halted for a lengthy period of time following a clash of heads between Ben Heneghan and Matt McClure.
Once play did get back underway, Cole made a comfortable save from Nuttall’s header after the striker met Nathan Delfouneso’s centre.
Witnessing their side struggle to break down the non-league minnows, the Pool faithful soon began to become increasingly restless.
A half chance of sorts came their way on the stroke of half time when Husband did well to break through down the left flank.
His clever cross found Delfouneso in space 10 yards from goal but the forward failed to connect cleanly, allowing the Stones to clear.
There was still time for Maidstone to almost add a second as Khan, the scorer of the impressive opener, curled just wide of the far post with Alnwick at full stretch.
Unsurprisingly the referee’s half-time whistle was greeted by a chorus of boos - the fans understandably angry with their side’s lacklustre display.
But clearly whatever Grayson said to the players at the break had its desired effect, as the Seasiders produced an amazing turnaround scoring three goals in the space of just four minutes.
The first came in fortuitous circumstances, although Nuttall deserves credit for the way he brought the ball down to help create the goal.
The forward then played a dangerous ball across the face of goal that ricocheted into the back of the net off Maidstone defender Ryan Johnson from George Elokobi’s attempted clearance.
Pool immediately stepped on the gas in search of the lead and they had to wait just three minutes to get it.
This time it was all of their own making, as Delfouneso slammed an instant header beyond Cole and into the back of the net from Kaikai’s volleyed cross.
Barely a minute passed as Delfouneso completed his brace to make it 3-1, capitalising on Elokobi’s hesitancy to steal the ball off him before beating the onrushing keeper with a chipped effort.
Kaikai looked to get in on the act, curling a 25-yard effort at goal that Cole could only parry away from danger.
Pool continued to press for further goals, Nuttall almost notching his third in as many games only to be denied from close range after a flowing move from back to front.
Ryan Edwards then saw a header cleared away from the foot of the post, Matty Virtue volleyed narrowly over and Kaikai had a low shot brilliantly tipped around the post as Pool threatened to run riot.
Maidstone threatened a nervy end to the match when they came close through Ross Marshall, whose low drive was deflected just wide.
There was still time for 16-year-old starlet Tony Weston to make his Blackpool debut, the forward receiving a warm reception from the Bloomfield Road faithful as he entered the fray.
Delfouneso almost clinched his hat-trick in stoppage time, the forward driving a powerful shot just over the bar.
Blackpool: Alnwick, Edwards, Heneghan, Husband, Macdonald (Turton), Feeney (Weston), Spearing, Virtue (Thompson), Kaikai, Delfouneso, Nuttall
Subs not used: Howard, Tilt, Guy, Scannell
Maidstone: Cole, Hoyte, Marshall, Elokobi, James (Temelici), Chesmain, Wishart, Allen (Amaluzor), Khan, Johnson, Akanbi (McClure)
Subs not used: Lewington, Pennell, Kyei, Embery
Referee: James Adcock
Attendance: 3,977 (420 Maidstone)